City leaning on voluntary water conservation

By rod Haxton, editor

With water usage at record levels last summer, Scott City Public Works Director Mike Todd had major concerns about the city exceeding its water rights.

In June, the city had pumped nearly 70 million gallons of water and that increased to just over 74 million gallons in July.

“I was afraid that we were going to exceed our water rights pretty severely,” says Todd.

It was at that same time that Todd, through several newspaper articles, began informing the public of the potential water crisis facing the city. Combined with the full impact of a water rate hike that had taken effect in May, the community responded by shutting down their spigots.

The council further encouraged conservation in late August by implementing a ban on the watering of lawns between noon and 7:00 p.m.

The result was a 34 percent reduction - 25.4 million gallons - in water usage from July to August.

“I was shocked at the public’s response,” says Todd.

The ability to reduce water usage on a voluntary basis was enough to prevent the city council from implementing strict conservation guidelines at this time.

“There’s a lot that can be done to encourage conservation,” noted Councilman Jon Brunswig, a member of the council’s Water Conservation Committee. “We have to focus on what we want to do.”

He said that communities which have tackled water conservation have promoted the installation of low-flow toilets and shower heads.

“If this is what we want to do then we have to decide what products we want to invest in,” said Brunswig.

Todd said the city has taken steps to curb its water usage, including a change in the watering schedule at city parks which will again be implemented this summer. No longer is the city watering during the hottest part of the day. In addition, Todd says they are spending about $3,500 to put timers on the sprinkler system.

Local businesses have also responded.

Todd says that a hardware store voluntarily removed all 3-4 gallon per minute shower heads from their shelves. He says that 1-1/2 to two gallon heads are all that can be purchased in town.

“A local plumber is stocking nothing but low-flow toilets and he hasn’t heard one complaint,” Todd added.

The council was informed that low-flow shower heads can range in cost from $8 to $16. Some cities, such as Hays, have made these available to residents at no cost.

“Before we spend that kind of money I’d like to know how much difference it can really make,” wondered Councilman Everett Green.

Mayor Dan Goodman says that most new construction is already installing the low-flow shower heads.

While these are steps which can help reduce water usage, the council readily acknowledged that the biggest share of water is being put on lawns.

“That’s where we have the potential to create the most savings,” Brunswig said.

He said that if the city is going to encourage people to change their watering schedule, or get more efficient sprinkler heads, the change needs to occur during the spring. It was also suggested that people need to become better educated about the amount of water they are putting on their lawns.

Goodman said they already know who the largest residential and commercial users are in town.

“Why don’t we go to them and offer to help find ways to reduce their usage?” he asked. “We don’t want to overregulate the use of water. We just want to cut the usage.”

“It doesn’t take a lot to raise awareness,” noted Todd. “The higher bills will get their attention and we can educate them through the newspaper.”

Councilman Steve Schmitt said that reducing overall water usage is competing with an increase in the number of homes in Scott City.

“We’ve added 17 residences in the last 1-1/2 years and we’re fixing to add another 20 to 30,” he said. “This will create an added challenge in water usage.”

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